Thursday, June 06, 2024

SpaceX Starship & Super Heavy Flight Test#4 | SpaceX Starbase in Texas

SpaceX Starship & Super Heavy Flight Test#4 | SpaceX Starbase in Texas

Note: A thin heatshield tile was used and two tiles were completely removed from Starship to measure how hot things get without tiles in those locations, while also testing thermal protection options

The fourth flight test of Starship launched Thursday morning, June 6, 2024, at 8:50 a.m. Eastern time from the company’s Starbase test site at Boca Chica, Texas. The Super Heavy booster and Starship upper stage made it back to the Earth's surface intact.

The ascent appeared to go as planned other than the failure of one of 33 Raptor engines in the Super Heavy booster to ignite. The vehicle continued a controlled descent and performed a landing burn before splashing down in the Indian Ocean about 65 minutes after liftoff.

"Despite loss of many tiles and a damaged flap, Starship made it all the way to a soft landing in the ocean!” said Elon Musk, chief executive of SpaceX.
Starship’s third flight test made strides towards a future of rapidly reliable reusable rockets. The test completed several firsts, including the first Starship reentry from space, the first ever opening and closing of Starship’s payload door in space, and a successful propellant transfer demonstration. This last test provided valuable data for eventual ship-to-ship propellant transfers that will enable missions like returning astronauts to the Moon under NASA’s Artemis program.

The fourth flight test was focused on achieving orbit to demonstrate the ability to return and reuse Starship and Super Heavy. The primary objectives were to execute a landing burn and soft splashdown in the Gulf of Mexico with the Super Heavy booster, and achieving a controlled entry of Starship.

To accomplish this, several software and hardware upgrades were made to increase overall reliability and address lessons learned from Flight 3. The SpaceX team also implemented operational changes, including the jettison of the Super Heavy’s hot-stage following boostback to reduce booster mass for the final phase of flight.

Flight 4 flew a similar trajectory as the previous flight test with Starship targeted to splashdown in the Indian Ocean. This flight path did not require a deorbit burn for reentry, maximizing public safety while still providing the opportunity to meet SpaceX's primary objective of a controlled Starship reentry.

The fourth flight of Starship aims to bring it closer to rapidly reusability. The goal of SpaceX is to build a fully reusable transportation system designed to carry crew and cargo to Earth orbit, the Moon, Mars and beyond.

"Starship is essential to both SpaceX’s plans to deploy its next-generation Starship system as well as for NASA, which will use a lunar lander version of Starship for landing astronauts on the Moon during the Artemis III mission through the Human Landing System (HLS) program."

Key Starship Parameters:

Height: 121m/397ft

Diameter: 9m/29.5ft

Payload to LEO: 100 – 150t (fully reusable)

Satellites: "Starship is designed to deliver satellites further and at a lower marginal cost per launch than our current Falcon vehicles. With a payload compartment larger than any fairing currently in operation or development, Starship creates possibilities for new missions, including space telescopes even larger than the James Webb."

Super Heavy is the first stage, or booster, of the Starship launch system. Powered by 33 Raptor engines using sub-cooled liquid methane (CH4) and liquid oxygen (LOX), Super Heavy is fully reusable and will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere to land back at the launch site.

Starship's Engines: Raptors

"The Raptor engine is a reusable methalox staged-combustion engine that powers the Starship launch system. Raptor engines began flight testing on the Starship prototype rockets in July 2019, becoming the first full-flow staged combustion rocket engine ever flown."

Raptor Engine Parameters:

Diameter: 1.3m/4ft

Height: 3.1m/10.2ft

Thrust: 230tf/500 klbf

Download the Free Starship User Guide (PDF):

Image Credit: SpaceX

Capture Date: June 6, 2024

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